FAYETTEVILLE, AR (KNWA/CNN) - A group of high school students in Arkansas are upset after they were reprimanded by staff members and asked not to wear Confederate flag attire to school.
School administrators at Fayetteville High say the actions of at least three students who wore Confederate flag jackets and painted the flags on their faces and hands were against the school’s policy to keep a safe and undisrupted environment.
"I just put Confederate flags on their hands, on their face, wherever they wanted it. During lunch, they had the police, the principal, the vice principal, all the deans, they were all telling us we either had to wash it off our face or go home,” student Morrigan White said.
But the students say they simply wanted to show the history of the flag, and they are upset about how administrators handled the situation.
"I told him I wasn’t going to take it off, so then, I went to the office. We had a discussion, and the head principal ended up calling me racist,” student Jagger Starnes said. “To me, it’s Southern pride; it’s our heritage. None of us are racist; none of us are doing it for hate. It’s Southern pride, and we’re not going to take it off for anyone. It’s our flag. It’s Arkansas. This is the South.”
The students say they are supporting the Twitter hashtag “HistoryNotHate.”
“The American flag was raised for slavery, too, but I mean, all the flags were trying to say is ‘We don’t want to be in your nation; we want to be ourselves; we don’t want to be part of this,’” White said.
Principal Dr. Jay Dostal says they asked the students to remove the flags because they wanted to “have a safe and orderly school environment.”
According to the school district’s rules, any attire that “disrupts the educational process or otherwise interferes with the rights or opportunities of others to learn or teach” is not allowed.
"We’re not trying to trample on their First Amendment rights,” Dostal said. “We have validated that the Confederate flag in our building can cause a substantially disruptive environment for some of our students, and because of that, we’re going to take measures to make sure that all of our kids remain safe.”
Despite being reprimanded, the students say they’ll continue to protest.
"They’re both going to keep wearing their jackets, and if I have makeup, I’m going to put #HistoryNotHate on both my hands, I’ll still keep putting the flag on my face,” White said.